By Melissa Roberts, PEDALS Coach
Do you have a special holiday memory from childhood? What elements of that memory have been cemented in your mind?
Chances are, that memory is firmly placed in your mind because of the feelings you experienced during that time, rather than the memory of what you got as a present.
Do media images of festive holiday parties fill you with warm happy feelings or illicit waves of anxiety or dread? In today’s media overloaded version of what a Happy Holiday looks like, smells like and tastes like, we can become disappointed and overly concerned with the artificial trappings that never seem to measure up to our expectations.
The real reason we strive for this perfection is because we want to make meaningful connections with our loved ones and children. The never-ending to-do list with the expensive shopping, house cleaning, party schedules and cooking, no doubt pulls us away from the real goal of slowing down, appreciating and spending time with each other and making memories that will last well beyond the newest toy or fancy dessert.
Children remember how they feel during these festivities much more than what they got or ate, and our goal is to make memories that will grow with your child. Here are a few tips on making meaningful connections with your children during the holiday season, without adding all the added stress of duplicating a Pinterest board.
1. Keep routines as much as possible.
While the holiday season can bring some excitement because it is a break from the everyday, children find routines comforting because they know what to expect and what they can depend on in the busy days of the holidays. As much as possible, keep wakeups, bedtimes, snacks and meals consistent. Adding fun elements such as reading holiday books at bedtime, adding familiar snacks and at least one favorite meal option can go a long way towards helping your child navigate through the many new exciting but unfamiliar experiences that the holidays bring.
2. Include them in the preparation.
Children are great helpers during the many preparations that the holidays bring. The key is to keep in mind their age and abilities. Children as young as three years old can help set the table, clean certain areas such as wiping furniture or vacuuming, help decorate the house and wrap presents. If they are too young to wrap presents independently, they can hold down the paper or get the tape ready. The importance of this shared event is in the idea that the preparations can be as fun and meaningful as the end product and that they do not feel left out of the process of getting ready for the holidays.
3. Cooking together.
Involve your child in the preparation of holiday meals. Children love to be given responsibilities and opportunities to help in the kitchen! Young children will be delighted to wash fruits and vegetables for holiday favorites such as apples, carrots and potatoes. Older children can help follow recipes, measure and stir in ingredients. While prepping the food, your child will be more likely to try the foods that they have had a hand in creating. Ensuring there is a child-friendly meal option available can ease the frustration of a picky eater.
4. Relive memories of the last year.
Spending some time looking at pictures and videos of the past year is a great way to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another. Asking everyone in the family to pick out a favorite memory to talk about can help cement memories and plan for future adventures. You may be surprised at the activities your child labels as favorite memories.
5. Remember they are children.
Some holiday events can challenge children with short attention spans and even smaller frustration levels. Lengthy services that require children to be quiet and at their best behavior, elaborate meals with unfamiliar foods that challenge the picky eater and a deluge of new people can tax even the most behaved and obedient child. Don’t forget to include physical activity to burn off the wiggles. Limiting these events to one per day, with downtime in between, will go a long way to keeping everyone’s holiday happy and stress-free.